When the 2014 NFL Draft came around all the fans, reporters, and draft experts knew the Philadelphia Eagles had to draft a Wide Receiver. Everyone was wondering if a rookie can replace former Eagles Wide Out DeSean Jackson. The Eagles traded up in the second round to select Vanderbilt’s Jordan Matthews and the question quickly arose. Can Jordan Matthews fill DeSean Jackson’s void? The answer is quite simple, no, he cant. But Matthews doesn’t have to. Jordan Matthews has the talent, confidence, and work ethic to succeed and add to the culture the team wants. Matthews wasn’t brought in to play DeSean Jacksons role, but rather be the best player he can be.
When Jordan Matthews name was called by former Eagle Mike Quick in the second round, fans were excited. Everyone finally got to see the future key piece in the Eagles offense. But the first thing I noticed when Matthews stepped onto the stage of Radio City Music Hall was his confidence. Not the type of confidence you see and think he’s arrogant, but the type that has that certain charisma. Jordan Matthews is a guy that fans will all grow to like. You could see his passion for the game just by the way he reacted to hearing his name called. This is exactly what the team wants in their players. Guys like Jordan Matthews who possess this passion and confidence rub it off on other players. This plays an important role with building team chemistry, something the team puts a huge importance on. The contrast in Matthews and DeSean was already evident, even though his time as an Eagle had barley began.
Jordan Matthews has all the physical tools that Eagles Head Coach Chip Kelly desires. He’s 6’3 and 212lbs. He owns the SEC receiving records for catches (262), and receiving yards (3759). Matthews runs very crisp routes, has sticky hands, and is a willing run blocker. He squashed the speed concerns many draft experts had for him by running a 4.44 forty at the combine. DeSean Jackson certainly is one of the NFL’s best deep threats and has immense talent, but definitely lacked in the other areas that Matthews excels in. Matthews won’t be asked to beat coverages by pure speed like DeSean. Instead, Matthews uses his route running and large catch radius to dominate his opponents. Matthews has the physical skill set to land him in the Pro Bowl. He also fits the mold of the new age NFL receiver. Teams are going with bigger corners and playing press coverage. With this, all of the NFL’s elite receivers are tall, athletic, and have strong hands. 7 of the 8 original 2014 Pro Bowl receivers were at least 6’2 and up. This is a trend the Eagles have decided to follow and apply. The Eagles dumped DeSean Jackson for nothing, not even a draft pick. The organization certainly feels that Matthews will produce for the team in his own way.
The most impressive aspect of Jordan Matthews isn’t his physical tools, or his record breaking numbers in college, but rather his work ethic. It’s very rare to see a 21 year old kid with this kind of motivation and drive. Matthews in college was known for always being one of the last ones to leave the practice facility. He was a team captain and leader of the Vanderbilt football program. On his visit to Philadelphia, Matthews already had taken notes on himself with things he needs to work on. When Chip Kelly was watching his game film with him, Matthews already knew the exact play, and what he did wrong before Chip even had a chance to press play and dissect it. At the 2014 Senior Bowl, Matthews asked for game tape of the corners he was going up against to study their habits. DeSean Jackson had great success in Philly, but his work ethic was often criticized. Matthews obviously has no such problem. When you prepare this much and work this hard to become the best football player, it’s almost impossible to not succeed. Matthews even applied this motivation to earn his degree in economics early this year. Just like Matthews confidence, his work ethic will push his teammates to match his preparation. Football games aren’t just won by pure talent, it takes hard work and dedication to perfecting your craft. Matthews knows that. DeSean didn’t.
“I feel like I’m the most competitive guy ever, I like to compete in everything I do. I’m gonna try to eat healthier than you, go out and practice harder than you, try to stretch longer than you.” – Jordan Matthews
People will frequently ask the wrong question regarding DeSean Jackson and Jordan Matthews. The Philadelphia Eagles selected Matthews not to play DeSean’s role, but rather change the complexity of the organization. Matthews has the talent, confidence, motivation, and work ethic that the Eagles lacked last season. He can truly be special and the Eagles know that. He brings his own unique charisma and enthusiasm to the team. So, can Jordan Matthews fill DeSean Jackson’s void? No. But he doesn’t have to. Matthews is here to be the best player he can be, nothing else.